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Amanda Knox May Face Retrial After Italian Court Ruling


Let's turn to news this morning in Italy. In a surprise ruling, Italy's highest court has ordered a retrial of American Amanda Knox. She's the former exchange student who, along with her former boyfriend, was charged in the murder of her British roommate. Today's ruling overturned the 2011 acquittal of the two defendants after they spent four years in jail.

We're joined by NPR's Sylvia Poggioli on the line from Rome. Good morning, Sylvia.


GREENE: So, a lot of us remember this case and all the coverage around it. And I think there was a feeling that this was behind us, we weren't going to hear the name Amanda Knox anymore. What does this ruling today say?

POGGIOLI: Well, all we know is that the court overturned the acquittal and ordered a retrial. We do not know if the ruling concerns all the arguments raised in the acquittal, or only partial arguments, and we won't know that for some time, only when the judges issue what's called their motivations for the ruling.

We do know there will be a retrial, and it'll take place probably not for another year in Florence, because the appropriate court for such a retrial does not exist in Perugia, the town where the crime was committed and where the first two trials took place.

In the first trial, Knox and Sollecito were found guilty and sentenced to 26 and 25 years in jail, respectively, and they were acquitted on appeal in 2011. In his arguments yesterday before the high court, Prosecutor General Luigi Riello said the appeals court had been too dismissive in casting aside DNA evidence, and he accused the trial judge of having lost his way.

GREENE: Hmm. So I suppose there could be new evidence that we're just not going to know for some time, it sounds like.

POGGIOLI: That's right.

GREENE: So can you take us back a bit to this original crime? I mean, remind us how this all came about.

POGGIOLI: The day after Halloween in 2007, the body of Meredith Kercher, the British student, was found in a pool of blood in the apartment she shared with Knox in Perugia, where they were exchange students. Her throat had been slashed.

Knox and her then-boyfriend Sollecito both maintained their innocence, although they said they were smoking marijuana that night, and that had clouded their memories.

The prosecution claimed Kercher was the victim of a drug-filled sex game gone awry. Making the case much more complicated, a young man from the Ivory Coast, Rudy Guede, was convicted of the murder in a separate trial, and he's serving a 16-year sentence. But the court ruled that he did not act alone. The ruling that acquitted Knox and Sollecito said the DNA evidence had been poorly collected and was not sufficient for a guilty verdict.

GREENE: So, Sylvia, Amanda Knox, after that acquittal, returned to the United States. I mean, she's back home now. Can Italian authorities demand that she come back to Italy if there's a retrial?

POGGIOLI: Well, they have no way to compel her, and no one here in Italy believes that Amanda Knox will come back to Italy for a retrial. You know, it's customary in Italy, as well as in some other European countries, to try defendants in their absence. Perhaps the most famous case was - here in Italy was the - concerned the CIA agents convicted for the 2003 kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Milan. So the issue of extradition would be raised only if and when Knox's conviction becomes definitive, and that could be some years from now.

And then it becomes an issue of diplomatic negotiations between governments. For example, to this date, Italy has not requested the extradition of the convicted CIA agents from the U.S. to serve their terms in Italian jails.

GREENE: And, Sylvia, we've got a few seconds left. I mean, there were so many stereotypes that came out about the UK, about Italy, about the United States. I mean, are those wounds being reopened now?

POGGIOLI: Well, you know, in fact, this case was tried as much in the media as anywhere else. And the British tabloid media dubbed "Foxy Knoxy" a promiscuous liar.

GREENE: Right.

POGGIOLI: The American media saw her as an innocent exchange student. And we heard some nasty epithets on all sides, and we may - probably are going to hear some more of those again in coming months.

GREENE: All right. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli, in Rome. Thank you so much, Sylvia.

POGGIOLI: Thank you.

GREENE: And you're listening to MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and how immigration has transformed European societies.
David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.